Swine flu claims 703 lives; PM directs proper treatment for patients

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday has asked health officials to ensure necessary treatment and adequate medicines for swine flu patients while affected states have been offered central assistance even as the death toll due to the disease reached 703.

A high-level meeting, chaired by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, was convened here to review the situation and address issues like shortage of drugs.

The meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) was attended by chief secretaries and medical heads of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.

The cabinet secretary offered them necessary central assistance.

Seth told media after the meeting that the prime minister has given instructions to ensure that medicines are available and patients get necessary treatment. He said that quite a few of the deaths happened because the treatment was not taken in time or screening was not done in time.

The health officials of various states informed the cabinet secretary through video-conferencing about the availability of drugs, testing kits, diagnostic labs, personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks.

Maharashtra and Haryana have requested for some medicines to augment their emergency stock which are being supplied to them by the union health ministry, an official release said here.

The cabinet secretary stressed that the states should ensure that the outbreak monitoring cells and necessary helplines function round-the-clock.

The drug controllers should ensure availability of necessary medicines such as tablets, capsules and vaccines along with guidelines for vaccination and treatment protocol.

"Medicines are there to treat swine flu, there is no need to panic," Seth said.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to the disease reached 703 and the total number of cases across the country climbed up to 11,071. Thirty-two deaths were reported Thursday.

The government had Wednesday issued directives for health workers to be vaccinated across the country.

Randeep Guleria, an internal medicine expert at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said: "There is evidence in India as well as internationally to prove that health care workers are more affected by outbreaks like this kind of flu."

"A healthcare worker can infect not only his immediate family but also patients who have less immunity like those in the Intensive Care Units of hospitals," he said.

In Delhi a total of 1,917 cases have been reported. The government has added two more designated laboratories to test for the disease and said the stock of medicines has been doubled.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain said: "The situation is under control as we have enough stock of medicines. The cases are going down. We have all facilities available for testing and treatment. The stock of medicines has been doubled."

"The virus has been in Delhi for quite a few years so the people of Delhi have developed some resistance therefore the situation is under control," he said, adding: "States which are new to the virus are badly affected, but not Delhi."

In the capital, hundreds of patients in front of the RML hospital were seen thronging the place wearing masks.

Chemist stores in the city have started selling the mask at an exorbitant rates. As per the health officials of the hospitals designated to treat swine flu cases in the national capital, the mask that cost mere Rs.2 and Rs.90 were being sold at Rs.50 and Rs.350 respectively.

The death toll due to the disease has reached 90 in Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan recorded 183 deaths and 3,302 positive cases till Wednesday, Himachal Pradesh saw two deaths while the toll in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh is at least 45. A police official in Jammu and Kashmir died of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) Thursday and doctors are awaiting confirmation whether he died of swine flu and 84 H1N1 cases have been confirmed in the state.

West Bengal has recorded two deaths and 31 positive cases of swine flu, while a girl in Nagaland has tested positive for the virus.

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